Like the Pink Panther
The Black Diamond has been stolen from the Peterborough museum and your mission is to retrieve it. The diamond is believed to be stored at Colonel Francis’ heavily guarded mansion. It is rumoured to be located in his private office that only the Colonel and his trusted head of security have access to.
You are a crack team of thieves who have been hired by the government to retrieve the diamond, you must break into the office without setting off any alarms or alerting the security and make your escape for your reward. If you fail the Colonel will show no mercy which will mean certain death, and the government will deny all knowledge of the mission.
The next guard is due on his round in 60 mins. Can you escape before he sees you and raises the alarm?
Despite our attempt to burn the place down in our quest to finish Stranger Things, the lovely team at Hour Escapes didn’t hold it against us and it was time for The Black Diamond. This time we were led up the stairs, and standing outside the room, we received our mission brief. As you might guess from the description on the website, it is possible to fail in your mission without running out of time should you trigger any alarms. There’s no need to worry, paying attention will ensure you don’t do this, but we found out the hard way in The Pandora Heist, that it’s important to read thoroughly when you’re robbing a place…
There were a variety of tasks to tackle in The Black Diamond: logic puzzles, riddles, utilising your powers of observation, some simple maths, and even a variety of more tactile puzzles. In other words, there was something to suit everyone. Most tasks assisted in the completion of the final goal (acquiring the Black Diamond), giving the game a linear feel, but actually, there were several opportunities where Gord and I had the option to work independently from one another, making the game ideal for larger teams to employ a divide and conquer strategy in the beginning.
Teams have a love/hate relationship with searching a room. I enjoy a good hunt for clues to solve, but I am, quite frankly, terrible at doing it effectively and more often than not find that my frustrations in escape rooms stems from a failure to find something sneakily hidden away. Black Diamond will likely find teams either frustrated, or patting themselves on the back for finding some of the more clever hiding places – I will admit to smiling in delight when I discovered one or two, although I was a bit shocked at the force required at one point.
The set was simple, yet effective. A well appointed study, with the main objective clearly in view, gave a clear goal to be working towards. The furniture, art, and props all belonged and while there was a fair amount to take in, the room was delightfully free of anything that could be considered a red-herring. But despite the simple set, the room held quite a few clever surprises, to keep us on our toes, while the soundtracks of some of the most popular spy/heist films helped to lighten the atmosphere.
My favourite games are those that take you on a journey, fully immersing players in the world around you, with a great story full of twists, and turns, with a climax and a grand finale, but there’s something nice about a simple heist, where you know right from the outset what you’re there to do. While there is no story arc to The Black Diamond, it does have well thought out puzzles that suit the theme, and can claim an ending that took us completely by surprise and brought the game to an enjoyable end. Perhaps my only criticism is that certain parts of the room were starting to show some wear, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s really quite minor and would be easily rectified.
Once again, Dan was our GM, and having handed us a walkie talkie before we entered the room, we knew he was only the push of a button away should we get stuck. As we discovered in Stranger Things, clues and nudges had a bit more exposition than may have been strictly necessary, and often we were walked through steps we had already completed, leading us to question whether GMs at Hour Escapes are actively monitoring games or have their attention divided between other tasks, but as Gord says, our preference for gentle nudges in the right direction is just that: personal preference. I will say that when we did decide we needed clues, Dan was quite quick to respond, and get us back on track
Having found ourselves often frustrated in Stranger Things, The Black Diamond was a wonderful change of pace with logical puzzles with clear sign posting where required and an enjoyable finish.
Team: 2 players
Address: 6F Forward House, Aston Business Park, Shrewsbury Avenue, Woodston, Peterborough, PE2 7BF